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Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 105
Abstract
The present review article discusses aspects oI Paul Williams`s excellent and highly
recommended book, which Iocuses on the question oI 'reIlexive awareness (Tib.
rang rig, Skt. svasamvittih, svasamvedana) in Tibetan Mdhyamika thought. In
particular, I am concerned with his characterization oI so so rang rig ye shes and
its relation to Rdzogs-chen teaching, and his notions oI the g:han stong doctrine
and its place in the intellectual liIe oI Far-eastern Tibet. My critical remarks on
these topics are in many respects tentative, and I would welcome correspondence
about them.
T
he Reflexive Nature of Awareness is a companion to Williams 1998b,
and continues the author`s learned and perceptive investigation oI
selected arguments Irom the ninth chapter oI Sntideva`s
Bodhicaryvatra (BCA) and their Indian and Tibetan commentaries. In
particular, Williams is concerned here with the reIutation oI 'reIlexive
awareness (Skt. svasamvedana, svasamvittih, Tib. rang rig) in BCA 9.20
26 (using Vaidya`s numbering) and the debate about this that was generated
in Tibet by the Rnying-ma-pa master Mi-pham rnam-rgyal rgya-mtsho
(18461912). In his commentary on BCA 9, Mi-pham had arguedpace
Rje Tsong-kha-pa (13571419) and his Dge-lugs-pa successorsthat
Sntideva`s reIutation was intended only with reIerence to ultimate truth
(paramrthasatya, don dam bden pa) and did not preclude recourse to the
We Are All Gzhan stong pas
ReIlections on The Reflexive Nature of Awareness. A Tibetan Madhyamaka
Defence. By Paul Williams. Surrey, England: Curzon Press, 1998, xix
268 pp, ISBN: 0700710302, $55.00.
Reviewed by
Matthew T. Kapstein
Associate Professor, Department of South Asian Languages and
Civili:ations and the Divinity School
The University of Chicago
m-kapsteinuchicago.edu
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 105125
JBE Review Article
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 106
concept oI reIlexivity in relative terms, even on the part oI an adherent oI
Prsangika-Mdhyamika. In so arguing, he was contradicting the Dge-lugs-
pa tenet that one oI the eight special Ieatures oI the Prsangika system is its
critique oI the concept oI reIlexive awareness in both ultimate and relative
terms. (This is very clearly argued, Ior instance, by Tsong-kha-pa`s disciple
Rgyal-tshab-rje Dar-ma rin-chen |13641432| in Rgyal-tshab 1985.)
In guiding the reader through the maze oI conceptual and dialectical
diIIiculties this material presents, Williams exhibits the same strengths that
inIorm the companion volume: a determination to unpack philosophical
arguments thoroughly and with great care and a keen sense that what is at
issue in philosophical dispute is best exhibited by exploring the conIrontation
among a variety oI opposing viewpoints, rather than just setting Iorth the
doctrines propounded by a single author or school. His approach does much
to enliven the study oI Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and to engage the
reader in the intellectual dynamic oI the tradition. Williams has been
interested in the questions surrounding the treatment oI reIlexivity in Tibetan
thought Ior a long time now, and his Iirst article on the subject (Williams
1983a) is useIully reprinted here as an appendix (pp. 232246).
In the body oI the book, Williams builds his account oI the dispute
brick-by-brick, beginning (ch. 1) with an introduction to the concept oI
svasamvedana and what Williams considers to be its two main types: selI-
awareness (i) appears to take an object, and is reIlexive in the sense that the
apparent object is a phenomenal Ieature oI the act oI awareness itselI; selI-
awareness (ii) is proper reIlexivity, awareness`s awareness oI itselI as
awareness. The Iirst is a concept stemming Irom Cittamtra epistemology,
while the latter relates primarily to the question oI determining the deIining
characteristic oI consciousness, and is Ior all intents and purposes no diIIerent
Irom the property oI 'luminosity. The manner in which the eighth-century
Indian philosopher Sntaraksita developed and deployed this notion oI
reIlexivity is the subject oI chapter two. In chapter three, Williams turns to
the BCA itselI, particularly to examine the commentator Prajkaramati`s
intentions in citing Sntaraksita`s discussion oI reIlexivity. He shows that,
in the passage in question (the commentary on BCA 9.21, or 9.20 in Vaidya`s
numbering), Prajkaramati takes Sntaraksita to exempliIy the position
that Sntideva is opposing, and argues Iurther that the commentator is
concerned to reIute svasamvedana ultimately, leaving the world and Sanskrit
grammar to legislate convention. Williams rightly suggests (p. 44) that
Sntaraksita in Iact does not wish to aIIirm svasamvedana ultimately and
that Prajkaramati uses Sntaraksita`s text just to illustrate the position
that Sntideva reIutes. Like Williams, I do not Iind evidence in Sntaraksita`s
own writing that he adhered to that position ultimately; his aIIirmations oI
We Are All G:han stong pas
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 107
Cittamtrat, considered in relation to his Mdhyamika writings, must be
understood as representing only his view oI relative reality. This is perhaps
one oI the reasons (and here I am speculating) that Tsong-kha-pa and his
Iollowers thought that Sntideva must have been reIuting svasamvedana
both ultimately and relatively at this point. For why otherwise, they may
have wondered, was Sntaraksita cited in the commentary as exempliIying
the prvapaksa? In chapter Iour, Williams provides a very thorough survey
oI the commentarial tradition on BCA 9.26, the closing verse in Sntideva`s
critique oI svasamvedana. Williams convincingly demonstrates, I think,
that the pre-Dge-lugs-pa commentators, both Indian and Tibetan, were
unanimous in their view that Sntideva`s reIutation was addressed to the
ultimate level, and did not pertain to conventional reality at all. The chapter
very well illustrates the merits oI Williams`s broad consideration oI
commentarial writings over and against the common tendency to treat a
single author or school; Ior without the perspective supplied by Williams,
we would have in this case no way to assess just how innovative Tsong-
kha-pa and his Iollowers really were in their approach to the interpretation
oI Prsangika-Mdhyamika.
All oI this, in a sense, is a preamble that provides the reader with the
background necessary Ior a thorough consideration oI Mi-pham`s treatment
oI these topics and the response that this elicited Irom his critics. In the
IiIth chapter, Williams discusses Mi-pham`s arguments as presented in his
Iamous commentary on BCA chapter nine, the Sher tik nor bu ke ta ka. Mi-
pham argues, in essence, that without accepting reIlexivity in conventional
terms, our conventional knowledge oI our own mental states becomes
inexplicable. In this way, the denial oI svasamvedana in relative reality
leads to a variety oI absurd conclusions, eventually undermining our
knowledge oI all reIerents; Ior, iI we do not in some sense know our own
mental states, what knowledge can we have oI their contents?
As Williams rightly argues (p. 107), Mi-pham`s work demonstrates
his intimate Iamiliarity with Dge-lugs-pa approaches to Madhyamaka
thought, but at the same time markedly diIIers Irom them. His work seemed
to invite Dge-lugs-pa response, and this, indeed, was Iorthcoming. In chapter
six, Williams considers one oI Mi-pham`s main Dge-lugs-pa critics, Tre bo
brag dkar sprul sku Blo bzang dpal ldan bstan `dzin. (Williams mistranscribes
'Blo as 'bLothough the pronunciation is roughly 'lo, the ming g:hi
in this case is b-.) Williams`s discussion oI Tre bo brag dkar sprul sku`s
work is based entirely on Mi-pham`s rebuttal, the Brgal lan nyin byed snang
ba, and he is apparently unaware that Tre bo brag dkar sprul sku`s own
writings are available in the collection oI the Oslo University library
(Kvaerne 1973). Nevertheless, Mi-pham supplies extensive verbatim
JBE Review Article
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 108
citations Irom his opponent`s work, and these are probably adequate Ior
Williams`s purposes. One is inclined to concur with Williams that Tre bo
brag dkar sprul sku`s 'attack on Mi-pham.when all is said and done seems
rather disappointing (p. 109). His most intriguing point, discussed by
Williams at length (pp. 110116), is that, were one to Iollow Mi-pham in
accepting svasamvedana conventionally, it would be impossible to overturn
the entailment that conventionally (tha snyad du) the three constituents oI
an act oI consciousnessagent, object, and actwould have to be present
when svasamvedana occurs. This is my own paraphrase oI Tre bo brag
dkar sprul sku`s argument, and it diIIers slightly in emphasis Irom
Williams`s, though I very much agree with him that the argument is to
some degree unclear. Though I Iind Williams`s reIlections on the argument
to be in most respects illuminating, I cannot concur that Tre bo brag dkar
sprul sku is tacitly arguing that 'iI svasamvedana existed conventionally it
would also have to exist ultimately (p. 115). So Iar as I can tell, he is only
saying that iI it exists at alleven in only conventional termsthen it
must IulIill the deIinition oI an act oI consciousness. This, I think, at least
helps us to understand Mi-pham`s response, to which Williams turns in
chapter seven, Iar and away the longest in the book (pp. 119182). As
Williams shows (pp. 126140), Mi-pham holds against his opponent that
'|t|he activity-agent-action model cannot be applied in the case oI a partless
unity like reIlexive awareness, the very quality oI consciousness itselI (p.
132).
Chapter eight is entitled 'Why all the Iuss? The signiIicance oI the
questions that occupied traditional Tibetan Buddhist philosophers, like that
oI those that exercise contemporary anglophone philosophers, is not usually
selI-evident except to those involved in the discourse communities
concerned. Too oIten those oI us writing on Buddhism do not seem to
recall this Iact, and it is one oI Williams`s merits that his perspective is not
so selI-enclosed. He adduces Iour main reasons Ior which Mi-pham`s Dge-
lugs-pa interlocutors took their stand against him on the question oI the
conventional reality oI reIlexive awareness: (i) its conventional existence
might imply its inherent existence, which would indeed be anathema to the
Prsangika view (pp. 186188); (ii) the aIIirmation oI reIlexive awareness
may be closely tied to positions congenial to Cittamtra (pp. 188193);
(iii) the aIIirmation oI reIlexive awareness may tacitly lend support to some
varieties oI the g:han stong view, as Iavored among some teachers associated
with the so-called 'ris-med movement in nineteenth-century Eastern Tibet
(pp. 193205); and (iv) which concerns the implications oI reIlexive
awareness Ior the interpretation oI 'a Buddha`s direct nondual and
nonconceptual omniscient awareness (pp. 206214). Though I concur with
We Are All G:han stong pas
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 109
Williams that these are all important and interesting issues in this context,
it will emerge in the Iollowing pages that I diIIer with aspects oI Williams`s
approach to the last two.
Despite my high praise Ior most oI Williams`s book, there are a number
oI important points about which I must express some rather strong
reservations. Williams asserts on several occasions (and also repeats in
1998b) that Mi-pham`s position on svasamvedana was motivated by his
commitment to a particular concept oI the Rdzogs-chen system, which
Williams calls so so rang rig ye shes tsam, and Ior which he gives as a
Sanskrit equivalent the term pratisvasam vedanafnamtra, translated as
'a mere reIlexive gnosis. So Iar as I can determine, he oIIers us no evidence
whatsoever that there is in Iact such a Rdzogs-chen term or that there is any
such Sanskrit term as the one that he provides. In Iact, his entire basisso
Iar as I can determineIor positing such a term at all is a single occurrence
in Mi-pham`s commentary, an occurrence that Williams has certainly
misinterpreted.
Let us begin by considering Mi-pham`s text, which is Iound in his
commentary on BCA 9.35:
de ltar na gang gi tshe dngos po dang dngos po med pa dag gang
yang blo yi mdun na mi gnas pa dei tshe/ de las g:han bden par
grub pai rnam pa g:han med pas na bden d:in gyi dmigs pai gtad
so mtha dag med par spros pa ma lus pa rab tu :hi ba yin te so so
rang rig pai ye shes tsam gyis rab tu phye ba smra bsam brfod du
med pa nam mkhai dkyil lta bui mnyam pa nyid do//
(Mi-pham 1994: 39).
'In that way, at which time neither entity nor nonentity abide beIore
the intellect at all, at that time, because there is no other veridical
Ieature, all elaborations without exception are paciIied, without there
being any objectiIied intentions involving veridical apprehensions
whatever. Being disclosed by only so so rang rig pai ye shes, this is
an equanimity that is like the sphere oI spaceineIIable,
inconceivable, and unutterable.
It will be immediately apparent that I disagree with Williams regarding
the Iorce oI the particle tsam here. Whereas he interprets it as integral part
oI the compound, with the adjectival meaning 'mere, I take it to be an
adverbial particle oI limitation or exclusion. In its primary signiIicance, oI
course, tsam is a particle signiIying approximate quantity, but by extension
it may be used in the senses that Williams and I suggest. My reason Ior
doubting Williams`s interpretation in this case is just that there is no regular
usage oI which I am aware oI so so rang rig pai ye shes tsam as a well-
Iormed compound in the Rdzogs-chen tradition, though Mi-pham and other
JBE Review Article
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 110
writers do use so so rang rig pai ye shes quite Irequently. Consequently
there seems to me to be no basis Ior adopting Williams`s understanding on
the basis oI a single instance. We should note, however, that the precise
Iorce oI tsam in philosophical contexts does sometimes cause conIusion
even among learned Tibetan readers. In Iact, Mi-pham chides his greatest
opponent, Dpa`-ris Rab-gsal, on one occasion Ior just this reason. Perhaps
his words are appropriately addressed also to Williams:
kho na dang tsam sogs kyi sgra di dag brfod dod dang sbyar tshul
gyi dbang gis mi ldan rnam gcod dang g:han ldan rnam gcod sogs
kyi gnas skabs so sor go rgyu yod pas/ phyogs rei u tshugs dis ci
bya ste/ gtso bor bstan pa tsam yin :hes pas gtso bo ma yin pa gcod
de sems tsam :hes pas sems las g:han pa sems ma yin pa gcod pa
b:hin no// gal chung la nan tan brtags pa khyed ni tsam sgra chad
pai slob dpon tsam ni yin par mngon no//
(Mipham 1994: 1401).
'These words kho na and tsam, etc., according to the intention with
which they are uttered and the manner oI composition are to be
understood contextually as excluding that which does not possess
|the property in question|, or excluding that which possesses another
|property that is not in question|, etc. What is to be gained by this
extreme partiality |oI interpretation that you have expressed|? When
I said, it is teaching just (tsam) what is Ioremost,` it was an exclusion
oI what is not Ioremost, just as 'mind only excludes the nonmental,
which is other than mind. You, who engage in Iorced examinations
to little purpose, are clearly a mere (tsam) master oI the explanation
oI the word mere`!
What it is most important Ior us to establish here, however, is just
what Mi-pham intends when he introduces the expression so so rang rig
pai ye shes in the passage under discussion. The verse upon which he is
commenting in this instance, BCA 9.35, is Iamously regarded as a
quintessential expression oI Sntideva`s realization oI the Mdhyamika
teaching, so it seems most unlikely that Mi-pham would have casually
inserted here an allusion to a doctrine regarded as alien to Mdhyamika
thought. II he is being controversial at this point, as Williams takes him to
be, then one might have expected his Dge-lugs-pa opponents to criticize
him Ior this, but so Iar as I can determine, his reIerence to so so rang rig
pai ye shes was not thought by anyone to be an objectionable point.
In Iact, it will be at once evident to many readers oI the passage given
above that Mi-pham, Iar Irom introducing an exotic Rdzogs-chen term into
his commentary, has simply given us a paraphrase oI one oI the most Iamous
oI Tibetan verses, which is Iound in the liturgies oI all the Tibetan Buddhist
We Are All G:han stong pas
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 111
orders and is usually attributed to Rahulabhadra`s Prafpramitstrotra
(Sher phyin bstod pa):
smra bsam brfod med shes rab pha rol phyin// ma skyes mi gag
nam mkhai ngo bo nyid// so so rang rig ye shes spyod yul pa//
dus gsum rgyal bai yum la phyag tshal lo//
'I bow to the mother oI the Jinas oI the three times,
PerIection oI Wisdom, who is ineIIable, inconceivable, unutterable.
Unborn, unceasing, she is oI the nature oI space,
And in the scope oI so so rang rig ye shes.
I believe that I would not be Iar wrong in holding that all traditionally
educated Tibetan Buddhists, regardless oI sectarian aIIiliation, know this
verse by heart and that none oI Mi-pham`s readers, whether Rnying-ma-pa
or Dge-lugs-pa, would have been inclined to see this allusion in any way as
suggestive oI a peculiarly Rdzogs-chen aIIirmation. Nevertheless, we still
must enquire into just what so so rang rig ye shes might mean here, and
certainly also countenance the possibility that it is a term that partisans oI
diIIering schools understand quite diIIerently.
As mentioned above, Williams gives pratisvasamvedanafnamtra
as the Sanskrit term underlying so so rang rig ye shes tsam. I have dispensed
already with the Iinal element -mtra, so now what about
pratisvasamvedanafna? Though Williams cites this expression on several
occasions in the present book (e.g., on pp. xi, 185, 1967; cI. also 119,
199) as well as in Williams 1998b (p. 24) so that the reader may come to
accept the authority oI this usage (as does Pettit 1999a, Ior example),
Williams in Iact does not provide a single citation Irom a Sanskrit text in
justiIication oI it. Indeed, he could not, Ior the term in question does not
exist.
Fortunately, however, we do know just what the underlying Sanskrit
is in this case. Rje Tsong-kha-pa, whose teaching Williams supposes to be
at odds with Mi-pham`s positive reIerence to so so rang rig ye shes, quotes
the third Bhvankrama oI Kamalasla approvingly as Iollows:
de ltar gang dang gang du bsam gyis mi khyab pa la sogs pai tshig
thos na/ de dang der thos pa dang sems pa tsam kho nas de kho na
rtogs par gang dag sems pa de dag gi mngon pai nga rgyal dgag
pai phyir/ chos rnams so so rang gis rig par bya ba nyid du ston
par byed do/ /
(Tsong-kha-pa 1985: 793).
'Thus, wherever one hears such expressions as inconceivable,` some
think that one is to realize just what is just by merely hearing and
JBE Review Article
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 112
thinking on those |expressions|; but in order to negate their arrogance
the dharmas are taught to be so so rang gis rig par bya ba nyid.
In Tucci`s edition oI the Sanskrit, this reads:
tad evam yatra yatrcintydiprapacah sryate, tatra tatra
srutacintmtrenaiva tattvdhigamam ye manyate, tesm
abhimnapratisedhena pratytma vedaniyatvam dharmnm
pratipdyate/
(Tucci 1971: 19).
'Thus, wherever elaborations such as inconceivable` are heard, |there
are| those who think |that there may be| realization oI reality just by
merely hearing and thinking on those; as a negation oI their arrogance
the pratytma vedaniyatvam oI dharmas is set Iorth.
In Tibetan translations oI Sanskrit texts Ior which we have the originals,
so so rang rig is in Iact the standard rendition oI pratytma-vid and its
derivatives. Clearly this was a case in which Williams, not having located
the actual Sanskrit, should have clearly marked his term as a hypothetical
reconstruction. (Let me remark in passing that the indiscriminate use oI
calque translations Irom Tibetan into Sanskrit is a signiIicant methodological
problem that has long inIected Tibetan Buddhist Studies.) But now we
must ask just what pratytma-vid means. Is it a close synonym oI
svasamvedana, in which case Williams`s mistaken reconstruction would
be a matter primarily oI philological interest, or does it reIer to a very
diIIerent concept, in which case a major issue oI interpretation is involved
here as well?
Because the term is well-known to occur in texts such as the
Ratnagotravibhga (Ior example, ch. 1, v. 9b in Johnston 1950), that are
oIten associated with the Indian antecedents oI Tibetan g:han stong thought,
it may be urged that, although the concept is by no means peculiar to the
g:han stong or Rdzogs-chen traditions, it is nevertheless closely tied to
approaches to Buddhist teaching that some would characterize as aIIirming
some sort oI idealism or a substantial absolute. Tsong-kha-pa`s Iavorable
citation oI Kamalasla, however, counsels caution on this point. Indeed,
there is very good reason to hold that pratytma-vid has no special
relationship in Indian Buddhism with Cittamtra and that the concept in
question belongs even to very early Buddhism. In Maffhima Nikya I 265
(PTS ed.), Ior instance, we read:
Upanit kho me tumhe bhikkhave imin sanditthikena dhammena
aklikena ehipassikena opanayikena paccattam veditabbena vihi.
We Are All G:han stong pas
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 113
'Monks! you have been guided by me by means oI this visibly true
dhamma, that is timeless, ostensible, conducive |to the goal|, and to
be intuited individually by the wise (paccattam veditabbena vihi).
Paccattam veditabba is precisely equivalent to Sanskrit
pratytmaveditavya (or -vedaniya) and to Tibetan so so rang gis rig par
bya ba. In all cases, it means only that the adept`s realization is intuitive, a
discovery that in the Iinal analysis she must make by and Ior herselI. The
Buddha, as it is elsewhere said, can neither wash away our taints with water,
nor pull us by the hand to nirvna. The term, thereIore, in its original and
primary signiIication has nothing whatever to do with epistemological
theories oI reIlexive awareness, or with substantialist metaphysical accounts
oI the mind, or with g:han stong, or with Rdzogs-chen. It may well be that
certain later traditions oI Buddhist philosophy and meditation appropriated
the term, but they probably did so in large measure owing to its ancient
resonances and not in the Iirst instance due to any doctrinal novelty.
Moreover, as the citation above oI Rahulabhadra`s stotra demonstrates, the
addition oI the term ye shes/fna was by no means a Tibetan innovation,
and need not be taken as much altering the basic sense oI the term.
Though I certainly concur with Williams that the assessment oI rang
rig (svasamvedana) as a type oI reIlexivity that may or may not be aIIirmed
to exist relatively is a point oI contention between the Dge-lugs-pa
interpreters oI Prsangika Mdhyamika and certain oI their opponents,
recourse to the canonical concept oI enlightenment as so so rang gis rig par
bya ba (pratytma-vedaniya) in itselI is not. But this, oI course, is not to
say that all understood this concept in just the same way. We must ask,
then, just what Tsong-kha-pa intends through his employment oI the term
in the Lam rim chen mo. The context in which the quotation Irom Kamalasla
given above is Iound is the close oI Tsong-kha-pa`s discussion oI vipasyana,
contemplative insight, where he takes up objections to his account (Tsong-
kha-pa 1985: 788795). His primary concern in these passages is to reIute
a purely quietistic approach, which holds that the analytical comprehension
oI selIlessless that Tsong-kha-pa champions must oppose the dawning oI
nonconceptual gnosis (bdag med pai don la so sor dpyod pa rtog pa yin
pas de las rnam par mi rtog pai ye shes skye ba gal). For Tsong-kha-pa,
so so rang rig ye shes is a valuable concept precisely because it underscores
that 'nonconceptual gnosis is not properly conceived as a mere absence oI
conception; it must be preceded by a certain sort oI conceptual activity,
and is positively realized by those who have become contemplative virtuosi
(rya, phags-pa). As he aIIirms: '|I|nconceivability by others and the like
are taught because those are to be intuitively realized among the virtuosi
(de rnams phags pai so so rang gis rig par bya ba yin pas g:han gyis
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Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 114
bsam gyis mi khyab pa la sogs par ston).
Interestingly, Tsong-kha-pa`s discussion in the Lam rim (with which
Mi-pham was undoubtedly Iamiliar) may help to explain why Mi-pham
chose to paraphrase Rahulabhadra just at BCA 9.35; Ior there Sntideva
states that neither being nor non-being is apprehended. Tsong-kha-pa had
invoked so so rang rig precisely to quell the misapprehension oI negative
predications oI the absolute, such as 'non-being, as underwriting an extreme
type oI quietism. It seems clear, now, why it was that Mi-pham`s Dge-
lugs-pa opponents did not seek to challenge him regarding this particular
point.
Despite all oI this, it is evident that the Tibetan terms rang rig and so
so rang rig (ye shes) do resemble one another very closely, so that we
cannot rule out the possibility that they may have been conIlated by some.
Indeed, the noted Dge-lugs-pa scholiast Se-ra rje-btsun Chos-kyi rgyal-
mtshan (14691546) maintains that Karma-pa VIII Mi-bskyod-rdo-rje
(150754) and the Sa-skya-pa thinker Gser-mdog Pan-chen Shkya-mchog-
ldan (14281507) have done just that. He writes:
di la rfe karma pa dang chos rfe gser mdog can pas rnam par mi
rtog pa so sor rang gis rig par bya ba ci :hig ltar yang dag par skyes
na/ :hes pas gnyis med kyi ye shes gnas lugs mthar thug tu bstan pa
yin te/ lung dis gnas lugs mthar thug de mnyam g:hag so sor rang
rig pai myong byar bshad pai phyir :hes gsungs pa brel yod par
ye ma go ste/ rnam gnyis kyi thugs b:hed la/ rang rig pai ye shes kyi
dngos yul la shes pa gcig las os med snyam du dgongs par dug
naang/ so sor rang rig ye shes :hes pa rnal byor pa so sor rang rig
par bya bai ye shes :hes pai don yin gyi gsung rab spyi gro nas
bshad pai rang rig d:in rnam khyad par gsum ldan lta bu gtan ma
yin pas brel med la/ de lta ma yin na/ legs ldan byed rfes brangs
dang bcas pa dang/ dbu ma thal gyur pa dang/ bye brag smra ba
sogs kyis mnyam g:hag so sor rang rig ye shes khas len kyang rang
rig khas mi len pas sgrub byed de la brel yod par ma go lags pa fi
ltar lags/
(Se-ra rje-btsun 1997: 163).
'Here, the venerable Karma-pa |Mi-bskyod-rdo-rje| and the lord oI
the doctrine Gser-mdog-can-pa |Shkya-mchog-ldan| have said that,
due to the statement that non-conceptual, individual intuition
somehow has truly come into being.,` non-dual gnosis is taught to
be the culminating abiding reality; Ior this scriptural citation explains
that culminating abiding reality to be the experiential object oI an
individual intuition in equipoise. But they have not at all understood
the context. According to the idea oI both, they think that nothing
We Are All G:han stong pas
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 115
but a unique cognition can be the real object oI intuitive gnosis (rang
rig pai ye shes). Nevertheless, individual intuitive gnosis` has the
meaning oI gnosis that is to be intuited on the part oI the individual
yogin, and it is never like the reIlexivity endowed with threeIold
subjectivity, objectivity and speciIicity that is explained in the
scriptures in general, and which |here| has no relevance. For
Bhvaviveka and his Iollowers, the Prsangika-Mdhyamikas, the
Vaibhsikas and others aIIirm the individual intuitive gnosis in
equipoise, but disavow reIlexivity. II you assume it to be otherwise,
how can you have Iailed to have understood the relevance oI that
prooI?
It will require Iurther research to determine whether or not Se-ra rje-
btsun`s critique oI his adversaries on this point is just, but it is noteworthy
that the interpretation oI so so rang rig (ye shes) that he regards as correct
that is, acceptable Irom a Dge-lugs-pa perspectiveaccords rather closely
with the sense in which we have seen paccattam veditabba- used in the Pali
canon. OI interest, too, is his insistence that the conception is encountered
throughout the Indian Buddhist tradition.
The Ioregoing amply demonstrates, I believe, that Williams has
conIounded two rather diIIerent concepts that some Tibetan thinkers were
eager to avoid conIlating. Nevertheless, one might still urge that Mi-pham
has himselI conIlated them, in which case Williams`s mistake about this
may still lead to an acceptable conclusion in the present context. CareIul
consideration oI Mi-pham`s own writings, however, makes it quite clear
that this is not the case. For present purposes I limit myselI to adducing one
particularly clear statement. In his renowned textbook oI Buddhist doctrine,
the Mkhas fug, a work intended Ior relatively elementary pedagogy and
thus stressing topics that Mi-pham thought to be essential, he writes that
'the very gnosis whose nature is liberated Irom the phenomena oI the
skandhas, which are oI the character oI the eight aggregates oI consciousness,
is intuited (rnam par shes pa tshogs brgyad kyi rang b:hin can gyi phung
poi chos las rnam par grol bai bdag nyid kyi ye shes nyid so so rang rig
|Mi-pham 1988: 239|). Because rang rig in the sense oI 'reIlexive
awareness (svasamvedana) must be counted among 'the phenomena oI
the skandhas, which are oI the character oI the eight aggregates oI con-
sciousness, it is deIinitionally impossible to identiIy it with so so rang rig,
the intuition oI liberated gnosis. I must add that all oI the traditional Tibetan
scholars I have known during a period oI close to thirty years who were
trained in Mi-pham`s tradition, including some who were his direct grand-
disciples, have insisted that rang rig and so so rang rig (ye shes) must be
careIully distinguished. Their unanimity on this point no doubt reIlects the
impetus oI their common precursor.
JBE Review Article
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 116
Williams creates some unnecessary trouble Ior himselI, I think, by his
decision early in the book to treat vifna and fna as eIIectively two
words Ior the same thing, which he translates as 'consciousness (p. xiv, n.
2) This decision, oI course, Ilies in the Iace oI virtually all Tibetan exegesis
whether Rnying-ma-pa, Jo-nang-pa, Dge-lugs-pa, or what have youthat
insists on diIIerentiating, never conIlating the two. Certainly Williams is
right to hold that there must be some consciousness-like dimension to fna;
otherwise it would be hard to explain why a word derived Irom f- (Tibetan
shes) is used here at all. But the most that can be said, I think, is that fna
and vifna are related analogically: 'fna is to a Buddha what vifna is
to the rest oI us expresses this, but not very helpIully. (AIter all, Ilapping
is to a bird what slithering is to a snake, but a subterranean dweller Iamiliar
only with serpents cannot be expected to Iorm an adequate conception oI
avian Ilight on this basis alone.) In point oI Iact, the only way one can
really know what a Buddha`s knowledge is like is to experience it oneselI,
and this one can only do by attaining Buddhahood. In this respect,
buddhafna is truly inconceivable, and this is part oI what the conception
oI pratytmavedaniyatvam underscores. Translated into contemporary
jargon it means: 'You had to have been there. This, oI course, did not
prevent Indian and Tibetan thinkers and meditators Irom attempting to
discuss fna, whether speculatively or on the basis oI reported
contemplative experiences. What it prevented was their assuming that they
could simply lump fna together with vifna and be done with it. One
might well compare, in this regard, the treatment oI the so-called 'omni-
properties in Western theology and, above all, the puzzles generated in
connection with the reIlections oI St. Anselm on the conceivability oI God.
Among the questions requiring Iurther exploration here, then, one that
is particularly important concerns the status and understanding oI fna in
Mdhyamika contexts. Sometimes it seems the case that contemporary
Western interpreters treat fna as a peculiarly Cittamtra topos, and this is
certainly an error. Surely, anyone who actually reads Candakrti`s
Madhyamakvatra, and above all its autocommentary, through to the end
cannot but be impressed that the Prsangika master is involved in the exegesis
oI fnanothing could be less true than to hold that he treats fna as a
non-Mdhyamika topos. Thus, Ior instance, he does not hesitate to describe
the dharmakya as ye shes kyi rang b:hin can gyi sku, the body whose
nature is gnosis (Valle Poussin 1907: 361, line 15). Tsong-kha-pa and his
Iollowers would insist, oI course, that this is just a conventional locution
(Ior example, Tsong-kha-pa 1987, p. 305), but no matter; the point here is
that the discourse oI fna is indeed part and parcel oI Prsangika discourse,
even iI only conventionally.
We Are All G:han stong pas
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 117
Despite all that I have argued so Iar, I do not wish to maintain that
Williams is wholly wrong in his suggestion that Mi-pham`s insistence upon
aIIirming rang rig relatively stems Irom his commitment to Rdzogs-chen.
As I will suggest below, Mi-pham`s overall commentarial project with
respect to the Madhyamaka is inIormed throughout by his intention to
elaborate a perspective that is well harmonized with Rdzogs-chen. In the
Iirst place, as I have elsewhere argued (Kapstein 1992, reprt. in Kapstein
2000, ch. 10), reIlexivity is crucial to the process oI Rdzogs-chen teaching
and meditation. It seems to me quite impossible to interpret the constant
emphasis in Rdzogs-chen writings on terms such as rang rig byang chub
sems (perhaps 'selI-presencing bodhicitta) without recourse to some
concept oI reIlexivity. What is not required, however, is that this be just the
same concept as is involved in svasamvedana. It may well be that, although
most Tibetan authorities agree with Tsong-kha-pa and Mi-pham that
svasamvedana and pratytma-vid cannot be one and the same, the latter
cannot be cashed out without reIerence to some notion oI reIlexivity. II this
is so, then it may well be that Rdzogs-chen writers were not in Iact seeking
to introduce svasamvedana into their concept oI enlightened awareness, so
much as they were concerned to unpack the diIIicult concept oI enlightened
intuition, pratytma-vid.
In Kapstein 1988, writing on Mi-pham`s epistemology, I hedged my
bets on this by stating only that 'it is characteristic oI Rnying-ma-pa thought
to Iind in our ordinary states oI awareness (rig pa) a subtle but abiding link
with the ineIIable truth oI enlightenment. It is now clear to me that Mi-
pham did indeed wish to preserve both the distinction between svasamvedana
and pratytma-vid as discussed above, while at the same time accepting the
concession to reIlexivity that his commitment to the Rdzogs-chen entailed.
How he achieved this is something that I propose to discuss at length
elsewhere. For the moment, I will just state generally that, in his Rdzogs-
chen writings, Mi-pham describes the ngo sprod, the initiatory moment
when the disciple is introduced to the nature oI her mind, as an act oI rang
rig, in the sense oI svasamvedana. When, Iollowing contemplative
cultivation oI what had been introduced, intuitive gnosis is disclosed, it is
realized to be Iree Irom all aspects oI conditioned reality, including oI
course svasamvedana. In other words, the relationship, Ior Mi-pham,
between rang rig at the moment oI the introduction and the so so rang rig
oI enlightenment is precisely similar to that which obtains between dpei
ye shes (fna as exempliIied |in an initiatory context|) and don gyi ye shes
(genuine fna |as realized Iollowing the cultivation oI the path|) in the
new tantric schools, including the Dge-lugs-pa. Though it thus seems that
Mi-pham went very Iar in the way oI harmonizing Rdzogs-chen thought
JBE Review Article
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 118
with more mainstream scholastic traditions, it is now equally clear that he
could not dispense with rang rig altogether and did have a positive reason
to assert it conventionally.
As the disagreement between Pettit and Williams (JBE 1999) over
whether Mi-pham is or is not to be characterized as a proponent oI g:han
stong illustrates, the question oI how best to classiIy Tibetan thinkers is
sometimes not altogether clear, and may be somewhat contentious. It is
worthwhile noting, thereIore, that this was sometimes a problem within
Tibetan intellectual circles too, and the present instance is a case in point. I
Iirst began to discuss Mi-pham with Tibetan scholars trained in his tradition
in 1973, when I started to study Mi-pham`s writings with the late Ser-lo
Mkhan-po Sangs-rgyas-bstan-`dzin, who was a great-grand-disciple oI Mi-
pham through both Bod-pa sprul-sku Mdo-sngags-bstan-pa`i nyi-ma and
Zhe-chen Kong-sprul Rin-po-che. Since that time I have had the good
Iortune to have enjoyed contact with several Rnying-ma-pa, Sa-skya-pa,
and Bka`-brgyud-pa scholars who similarly owed elements oI their
background to Mi-pham`s tradition. Over the years I have been repeatedly
struck by an interesting discrepancy in the reception oI Mi-pham`s
Mdhyamika teaching among Tibetan authorities themselves and his views
on g:han stong in particular. On the one hand, there are those who emphasize
those texts and passages in which Mi-pham speaks Iavorably oI g:han stong
and who on this basis regard Mi-pham`s position on g:han stong as quite
similar to that oI `Jam-mgon Kong-sprul (181399), who was aIter all one
oI his mentors. In other words, they maintain that he did wish to aIIirm a
'soIt variety oI g:han stong, that is, one that adopted a style oI discourse
markedly inIluenced by Dol-po-pa, but without the strong ontological claims
sometimes associated with the latter`s teaching. Against this, there are others
who hold Mi-pham to have adhered more closely to Prsangika-
Mdhyamika, emphasizing the interpretive approach oI Klong-chen-pa,
rather than Tsong-kha-pa. The Iavorable remarks on g:han stong, they say,
were motivated by the intentions (1) to illustrate the best deIense oI g:han
stong Ior use in debate (and we need to bear in mind here Tillemans` (1989)
perceptive comments on the relationship between Tibetan debate and game-
theory); and (2) to position g:han stong in relation to rang stong as an
instance oI the two extremes (mtha gnyis) to be overcome by a right un-
derstanding oI Mdhyamika thought.
Despite this interpretive discrepancy, I have never noted any active
contestation between these two wings among Mi-pham`s successors. There
is a broad consensus, I think, that Mi-pham`s Iinal view is in any case that
oI the Rdzogs-chen teaching oI Klong-chen-pa. Even those who Iavor a
pro-g:han stong interpretation oI Mi-pham seem to agree that in the last
We Are All G:han stong pas
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 119
analysis this must give way to a radical Ireedom Irom conceptual
elaborations (spros bral) and that the latter expression, and not g:han stong,
surely represents Mi-pham`s preIerred idiom. (I note in passing that the
discrepancy we Iind among Mi-pham`s successors perhaps also reIlects a
broad discrepancy in Rdzogs-chen exegesis. Whereas some authorities on
the Rdzogs-chenthe late Dudjom Rinpoche is a case in pointwere very
well disposed towards g:han stong teachingothers have been disinclined
to associate the Rdzogs-chen with g:han stong at all. Thub-bstan chos-kyi
grags-pa may be mentioned among the latter.)
Williams is in some sense alive to these complications, as is reIlected
in his long note (pp. 199206) on Mi-pham`s relation to g:han stong,
repeated in his response to Pettit (1999). His attempt to argue there, however,
that Mi-pham`s use oI the expression chos nyid spros bral demonstrates an
ontologically positive characterization oI the absolute is really nothing more
than a quite unIounded contrivance. This becomes clear when we consider
Tsong-kha-pa`s remarks in the Drang nges legs bshad snying po, a text oI
cardinal importance Ior Dge-lugs-pa thought and one with which Mi-pham
and his Dge-lugs-pa interlocutors were all certainly Iamiliar:
de la dgag pa ni sgras brfod pa na tshig gis :in par dgag bya bcad
paam dei rnam pa blo la char ba na dgag bya bkag pai rnam pa
can du dngos su shar nas rtogs par bya ba :hig ste/ dang po ni bdag
med lta buo/ / gnyis pa ni chos nyid lta bu ste/ di la tshig gis :in
par dgag bya bcad pa med kyang dei don char ba na spros pa bcad
pai rnam pa can du char ba yod do/ /
(Tsong-kha-pa 1987: 517).
'Now, as Ior negation, it is that which is to be understood, having
actually arisen as |an intellectual act| whose Ieature is the negation
oI the negatum, when there is an explicit utterance grasped verbally
|through the use oI a negative expression| that excludes the negatum,
or when that Ieature occurs to the intellect. The Iirst is like not-
selI.` The second is, Ior instance, reality` (dharmat, chos nyid).
Here, even though there is no explicit utterance grasped verbally
that excludes the negatum, when its signiIicance arises, it arises as
|an intellectual act| whose Ieature is the exclusion oI all elaborations.
It may well be that Tsong-kha-pa does not oIten emphasize this way
oI speaking, but it is clear Irom the Ioregoing that he Iound it quite
acceptable, Ior there is no trace oI disparagement in his remarks. And there
is no reason oI which I am aware to hold that Mi-pham would have taken
issue with Tsong-kha-pa about this.
A second red herring that Williams introduces in the same context (p.
200) involves the notion oI nyi tshe bai stong pa nyid, an 'ephemeral
JBE Review Article
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 120
emptiness, in Mi-pham`s reIerences to which Williams Iinds a tacit assault
on Tsong-kha-pa. Tsong-kha-pa, however, also uses this term, and, so Iar
as I can determine, he uses it to mean exactly what Mi-pham does. Thus,
Ior instance, 'a conjuror`s knowledge oI the Ialsehood oI |conjured| horses
and oxen is ephemeral emptiness (sgyu ma mkhan gyis rta glang brd:un
par shes pa yang nyi tshe bai stong pao |Tsong-kha-pa 1985, p. 748|).
Mi-pham`s example is the emptiness oI a pot (Mi-pham 1994, p. 118). For
Tsong-kha-pa and Mi-pham alike, ephemeral emptiness plays a role in
introducing emptiness, but it is by no means to be conIounded with the
realization oI the absolute.
The suggestion, thereIore, that the use oI expressions such as chos
nyid, spros bral, ye shes, nyi tshe bai stong pa nyid, and dbu ma chen po
(see Kapstein 1995 and Pettit 1999a; Tsong-kha-pa and his successors
occasionally use this as a term oI praise as well, Ior example, in Tsong-
kha-pa 1987, p. 304) automatically involves some sort oI g:han stong code
is groundless. These are terms distributed throughout the writings oI most
traditions oI Tibetan Mdhyamika thought, and only markedly tendentious
interpretations oI them would support Williams`s conclusions.
I should note, too, in passing that both Williams and Pettit seem to
hold that the proponents oI g:han stong in Tibet wished to reIute Prsangika-
Mdhyamika. I cannot speak Ior all varieties oI g:han stong, but my studies
oI the Jo-nang-pa school (Kapstein 1992/3, 1993, 1997) have led me to
conclude that this was not so. The Jo-nang-pas regarded the Prsangika
philosophy associated with Candrakrti not as wrong, but as incomplete,
and thusthough this may strike some as counterintuitiveas ultimately
capable, even in its Dge-lugs-pa interpretation, oI harmonization with a Jo-
nang-pa program. This harmonization was in large measure accomplished
in the nineteenth century by the great Jo-nang-pa master `Ba`-mda` Dge-
legs (18441904), who is sometimes depicted as a rival oI Mi-pham. I have
written about this at length elsewhere, however (Kapstein 1997), and
interested readers may reIer there.
These reIlections do, however, introduce one Iurther topic touched
upon by Williams, but perhaps not considered by him in suIIicient depth,
that is, the religious situation in nineteenth-century Eastern Tibet. (It was,
aIter all, Williams who once argued that '|a|lthough it should not be
overemphasised, it does seem that too little attention is paid generally to
the political/social context oI Oriental philosophical ideas |Williams 1983b,
p. 138|.) Perhaps he has taken too seriously Samuel`s (1993) depiction oI
an opposition between a Dge-lugs and a Ris-med synthesis. In Iact
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Khams and Amdo oIIer plenty oI
evidence oI positive interaction between Dge-lugs-pas, Rnying-ma-pas, Jo-
We Are All G:han stong pas
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 121
nang-pas, and others, though oI course there were sectarian partisans oI all
stripes as well (Kapstein 1989, reprt. in Kapstein 2000, ch. 8; Kapstein
1997). Again, it would be beside the point to discuss this in detail here;
what needs be emphasized, however, is this: there were numerous Iigures,
both Dge-lugs-pa and Rnying-ma-pa, who saw no particular contradiction
between the Dge-lugs-pa Prsangika approach and the Rdzogs-chen, and
thereIore the notion that there is an special relation between Rdzogs-chen
and g:han stong is no doubt specious. Among Dge-lugs-pa adherents oI
the Rdzogs-chen, we may mention the renowned Mongolian commentator
Bstan-dar Lha-rams-pa, as well as Mi-pham`s opponent Tre-bo Brag-dkar
sprul-sku, who was himselI a rd:ogs chen snying thig practitioner, wrote
on this topic, and enjoyed positive relations with the Bon-po Rdzogs-chen
master Shar-rdza Bkra-shis-rgyal-mtshan and the latter`s disciples. The great
Rdzogs-chen adept Irom Amdo, Zhabs-dkar Tshogs-drug-rang-grol, was
educated as a Dge-lugs-pa, and indeed continued to teach the Lam rim and
related materials throughout his liIe, while preaching the inner identity oI
Tsong-kha-pa and Padmasambhava (Ricard 1994). And a Rnying-ma-pa
like Thub-bstan chos-kyi grags-pa has adopted such a thoroughgoing Dge-
lugs-pa approach to Madhyamaka that Williams in Iact has mistakenly
identiIied him as a Dge-lugs-pa. I could go on in this way at length, but this
much should be suIIicient to suggest that the sectarian and doxographic
boundaries were oIten less clear than we sometimes make them out to be.
The Iull complexity oI Eastern Tibetan religious liIe remains poorly studied,
and general assessments here require much caution.
I would suggest, thereIore, that given our present knowledge oI Tibetan
doctrinal history doxographic labels such as g:han stong pa and rang stong
pa are best avoided, except oI course where they are used within the tradition
itselI. Our primary task must be to document and interpret precise concepts
and arguments, and in many cases the recourse to overly broad
characterizations seems only to muddy the waters. Indeed, Williams is
certainly at his best when engaged in the careIul analysis oI dialectical
details; here, his philosophical acumen really shines. His reasons Ior insisting
on the question oI whether Mi-pham is a g:han stong pa or not are not at all
clear to me, and I do not see just what this really contributes to our
understanding oI Mi-pham`s thought. Thatin accord with his
eclecticismhe admitted some aspects oI g:han stong discourse in some
contexts no one would dispute, but that is a Iar cry Irom deIining his general
approach. Tsong-kha-pa, Ior instance, incorporates material derived Irom
Sntaraksita and Kamalasla into his instructions on vipasyana, but no one
would on that account title him a Svtantrika.
Specialists in Tibetan Buddhism will be grateIul to Williams Ior
JBE Review Article
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 122
providing detailed citations Irom the original texts throughout and Ior
providing in appendix one (pp. 217230) Iull transcriptions oI the main
passages Irom Mi-pham`s work on which his study is primarily based. A
Iew miscellaneous Tibetological problems may however also be noted:
(1) p. 118: khogs bshad 'Ieeble explanation
Williams admits to some diIIiculty in interpreting Tre bo brag dkar sprul
sku`s apparently derisive characterization oI Mi-pham`s work as khogs
bshad, which he takes to reIer to the teaching oI one who is senile, Ieeble
with age. There are several problems here. First, disparaging reIerence to
a teacher`s advanced age is not at all consistent with Tibetan cultural
norms. Second, Mi-pham was not old when he wrote the commentary on
BCA 9. He was just thirty-two in 1878 (sa stag lo), according to the date
that he gives in the colophon, and Iorty-three when he replied to Tre bo
brag dkar sprul sku in 1889 (sa glang lo). (In general, it seems a good
practice Ior scholars oI Tibetan Buddhism to date accurately the works
they study, wherever that is possible, as it readily is here.) Hence, khogs
bshad probably cannot be understood as Williams suggests. The second
problem is that the text does not read khogs bshad at all; this is an error
in the edition that Williams has used, which reproduces an Indian tracing
oI the text. Tracings done in India must always be used cautiously, as
they oIten are prepared hastily without adequate correction so that
ligatures (especially) are Irequently misrepresented. The correct reading
here (and Iound in Mi-pham 1994, among other editions) is khyogs
bshad, meaning a twisted, or convoluted, explanation (khyog po, deIined
in Tibetan lexicons as drang po ma yin pa, 'not straight).
(2) p. 119 mdo tsam brfod na 'just the stra perspective, omitting
that oI tantra
This is a surprising error Irom a seasoned scholar like Williams. Mdo
tsam brfod is a very common idiom meaning 'to epitomize, set Iorth in
brieI. It has nothing at all to do with stras and tantras. The
misunderstanding causes Williams some conIusion a Iew lines later in
Mi-pham`s text, where he introduces the terms gnyug mai sems ('mind
in its natural state) and bde ba chen po ('great bliss). Williams recog-
nizes that these are part oI the tantric lexicon, but, given his
understanding that Mi-pham will avoid tantric discourse, cannot explain
just what they are doing here. By contrast, Mi-pham`s point is just that,
were we to limit ourselves only to ways oI talking that are explicitly
sanctioned in Prsangika works, we would be in the absurd position oI
excluding, even Irom our discussions oI the conventional, much oI the
tantric vocabulary that all oI the Tibetan traditions proliIically use.
(3) pp. 1945, n. 5
We Are All G:han stong pas
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 123
Williams suggests that Mi-pham`s great disciple Mkhan-po Kun-bzang-
dpal-ldan must have based his commentary on the BCA on an oral
exposition by Mi-pham oI the entire text. But the author himselI makes
perIectly clear in both his opening invocations and closing colophons
that, though his comments on the ninth chapter are indeed based on Mi-
pham`s work, the commentary overall derives Irom Dpal-sprul Rin-po-
che`s teaching. Mkhan-po Kun-bzang-dpal-ldan had, in his youth,
studied the BCA under the latter.
In concluding, I wish to stress that my critical remarks concern only a
small portion oI Williams`s book overall and that, as stated in the opening
paragraphs oI this review, The Reflexive Nature of Awareness is a work oI
real excellence. The sections in which I have disagreed with Williams I
have Iound to be oI great value, too, Ior Williams`s stimulating and
provocative approach to the material always demands critical reIlection
and response. Williams`s special merit is to engage his readers in a rigorous
dialogue with his sources, and by doing this so well he gives new depth and
vitality to the Iield. Serious students oI Buddhist philosophy will be grateIul
Ior this, perhaps most especially when they Iind themselves moved to take
issue with him.
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JBE Review Article
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 124
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